Answers from Our Experts (1)
A historic steakhouse that has been serving Washingtonians for more than 100 years, Occidental Grill & Seafood near Willard InterContinental offers a classic, comfortable space for settling in and digging into a perfectly grilled New York strip or pan-seared rainbow trout. Before you arrive for a meal, here are five things our Forbes Travel Guide editors think you should know about the classic restaurant:
1. It’s historic. The Occidental was opened next to the Willard in 1906, and has hosted hundreds of statesmen from nearby Capitol Hill during that time — many of their photos line the walls of the restaurant, providing almost a wallpaper of who's who that earned the Occidental its slogan, "Where Statesmen Dine."
2. The chef has history, too. Executive chef Rodney Scruggs started his culinary career as a line cook at the Occidental when he was just 18, and stayed until 1993, having worked his way up to executive sous chef. He then worked at restaurants around the Washington area and the eastern shore of Maryland, and as a private chef for the president of American University. Scruggs returned to the Occidental as executive chef in 2005.
3. The menu is pleasingly streamlined. When Scruggs returned to the Occidental, he imbued the restaurant with this food philosophy: "Keep it simple, Scruggs." His dishes stress fresh, local ingredients, and his seasonal side dishes are a delicious steal, like the sautéed cherry tomatoes or lobster mashed potatoes that have more buttery lobster than a Maine lobster roll.
4. Opt to be seated in the wine room. This secluded space, which showcases a modern new wine storage system, seats up to 24 and is ideal of private parties. The mahogany and leather lined space is a where you’ll be treated to either a four-, five- or seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings selected for each course.
5. The classic cocktails deserve a sip. For an interesting pre-meal drink, try one of the Occidental's oak barrel-aged spirits like whiskey or rye. These drinks take on the flavors of the barrel they’re aged in; on our visit, these included a curiously strong manhattan with Maker's Mark whiskey, vermouth, bitters and brandied cherries.